Before I stopped drinking, I thought I knew what alcohol-free living would be like. I was convinced that sobriety was going to be as boring as hell.
Alcohol seemed to be the thing that made everything sparkle. It turned bad nights into good ones; it injected fun and glamour where there was none.
Not only did I believe this, but everyone else around me seemed to as well. My generation was raised on Bridget Jones and Sex And The City; we were bound to think that drinking is how you have fun.
In her memoir Blackout, Sarah Hepola describes viewing alcohol – mistakenly – as the ‘gasoline of adventure’. That’s what I used to think too. Now, I have a completely different view. After three and a half years of sobriety, I can say with certainty that sobriety is not boring.
Here’s the thing: alcohol isn’t magic – it’s poison. It does NOT have the power to make an occasion more or less special. The best it can offer is the opportunity to become slightly less aware of your surroundings so you don’t notice the crap stuff quite so much.
Not convinced? Here are three experiments you can try:
When have you drunk lots – but not had a good time?
We’ve all been to parties where it doesn’t matter how much we drink, we just don’t enjoy ourselves. Why is that? If alcohol really is the secret ingredient to a fun night out, shouldn’t it work every time, no matter what? The reality is that a boring party is going to be a boring party, no matter what. It’s just that when you’re sober, you notice it a bit more – and that’s a good thing! Who wants to waste their time doing things that bore them?
You can also flip this exercise around and analyse a really fun, happy event. What was it that made it so good? Was it really the alcohol? Or did it have something to do with the food, the music, the company of the people you were with, the mood you were in, what you were wearing or your expectations of the event before you arrived? We give alcohol way too much credit.
Look at the big picture.
Examine your drinking over the past three months. Consider all the drinking occasions AND the hangovers. Drinking isn’t just about how we feel in the moment, it’s about how we feel the next day and the day after that. What opportunities have you missed out on as a result of your drinking? What have you not bothered to do because you felt crap? What’s been on your to-do list for ages, but you’ve just not got round to it? Life is what you make of it. When I look back on my drinking days, the thing that really stands out is the repetitive, boring, unambitious nature of it. Drinking made my life dull and kept me stuck in a rut. (No wonder I needed to consume a mind-altering drug in order to feel better about myself.)
Consider the worst-case scenario.
Imagine for a moment that you stop drinking and ALL your friends decide you’re a boring, sober loser. You go to dinner parties and nights out and they’re just dull, dull, dull. I think this is very unlikely to happen (!) but if it does, is it a bad thing? Not necessarily.
Alcohol is really good at papering over the cracks and helping you avoid the truth. If you can only enjoy the company of certain people whilst under the influence of a mind-altering drug, then it suggests you don’t get on that well in the first place. And if those people reject you because you’re no longer following the crowd or fitting in, then it doesn’t say much about them.
Personally, I’d rather know when I’m bored or spending time with the wrong people. Surely that’s got to be better than sleepwalking through a life that’s full of things you don’t really like?
I’d love to hear from you on this one.
What are your answers to the three scenarios above? Whether you’ve just recently gone alcohol-free or you’re in long-term sobriety, what’s life like for you now? What’s surprised you? I’d love to know.